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Director: Howard J. Ford
Paramount Home Entertainment
“He’s not going to let her off this mountain alive,” says actor Nathan Welsh in Paramount’s new movie, The Ledge.
The Ledge centers around a fictitious version of Monte Antelao—the highest mountain in the Dolomites, in northeastern Italy. The plot follows the classic into-the-woods horror genre: two girls get to know a group of guys over a campfire. One of the guys turns out to be a murderer. Sophie (played by Anaïs Parello), is brutally killed after being chased through the woods. Kelly, who had gone to bed, awakens to shouts. She scrambles out of bed, searches the area, and arrives at the scene just in time to see the gore. For the men, there’s one major hiccup: Kelly caught the whole thing on camera. A pursuit ensues, out of the woods and up the face of Monte Antelao.
Check out the exclusive clip below!
Kelly, played by Brittany Ashworth, must out-climb the men to the summit. Yep, she’s soloing! But the men, who have gear, take an adjacent, easier route. After beating her to the main ledge, Kelly becomes trapped 20 feet below them—unable to continue or downclimb. Luckily for her, there’s also an abandoned portaledge right there for her disposal, alongside a ledge just big enough to crouch on. (O.K., so why is there a portaledge right below a massive real ledge? Great question, but just go with it!)
The Ledge is a great film until you start to nitpick. Aside from all-too-convenient big-wall gear, if you watch closely, you’ll notice that the same sloper miraculously appears at three different locations on the route. Or that, when Kelly first starts ascending the climb, she’s in her hiking shoes, then randomly in one climbing shoe, then back again. There’s some super safe hand-over-hand belaying, interesting lowering techniques, almost zero clipping into safety points, even when gear is on hand, and so on.
Still, of the climbing thrillers out there, it’s not so bad. In fact, props to Ashworth for using good technique. “I’m based in London,” she told Climbing over the phone. “There’s a whole bunch of great climbing walls here. Climbing is kind of one of the things that first drew me to the film.”
Ashworth said her brother and friends are climbers. In addition to visiting local gyms, she’d gone on trips to local crags, such as Harrison’s Rocks, and not so local crags—including a mountaineering trip to Chamonix.
Her climbing experience shows. Ashworth did an excellent job of using her toes, keeping her arms straight, leaning into the wall to rest (even if some stances, when the camera zooms back out, are totally improbable). And the character she portrays is just dang brave, which is awesome.
Another thing the film got right, albeit a basic one, is the climbing advice, offered up by Kelly’s late fiancé. “Climb with your mind not your muscles,” he says, which is a nice nod to climbing’s technical aspects, and one that’s often overlooked by Hollywood filmmakers.
All told, only one pitch of real rock was shot, and the rest of the featured climb was filmed on set. The bulk of the film takes place between the two ledges, with the killers on a large platform, and Ashworth crouched on a narrower one beside the portaledge (think Half Dome’s Thank God Ledge). The dizzying shots, the flying murder weapons, and the fight over the camera makes for some thrilling action.
There’s some solid gym shots throughout the film as well, as Kelly remembers getting into climbing and learning the sport from her late fiancé. His death, you’ll learn, is what led Kelly to Monte Antelao. The indoor shots were taken at a new gym in Belgrade, Serbia, Sektor44. “We spent quite a lot of time there working that dyno move for the ending,” said Ashworth.
Igor Milosavljevic, a coach at the gym, helped advise some of the climbing scenes and to train staff, including Ashworth. “When Igor was there, he’d say stuff like, ‘You just need to move your hips like this,’ and suddenly it would be really easy.
“You can come at [a climbing move] like ‘why can’t I reach it, why can’t I do that move?’ But actually it’s much more cerebral than that,” said Ashworth. “It’s so technical. And there’s loads of technique that he taught me.”
The Ledge was filmed mid-pandemic, which created a few unique challenges. Crew members had to quarantine after traveling. “And it was an independent movie with a very ambitious set of stunts and storyline,” said Ashworth. Later, she added, “Knowing that the climbing community might watch it felt like quite a big responsibility.”
Speaking which, I’d be remiss not to offer up this warning: There is one incredibly graphic shot. It hits close to home, because it’s an injury I’ve seen before at a climbing gym. When Kelly initially begins her ascent up the climb, one of the men follows closely behind. He catches up, and (spoiler alert!) she’s able to shake him off by stepping on his hand. He plummets to the ground, breaking his leg upon impact. It’s a compound fracture, and the film doesn’t leave any bloody detail to the imagination. Truthfully, I had to close my eyes.
All told, The Ledge is a great climbing feature. Given the fight for the camera, it’s a modern, less grandiose version of Cliffhanger, but with a female lead.
“To get to play a character like Kelly was just a dream, really,” said Ashworth. “I think I learned quite a lot about myself. About how far you can push yourself. And about how much of what you can achieve is limited by fear and your own sense of what your limits are. And that actually what you can do is much farther than that.”
The Ledge will be in theaters, in digital and on demand tomorrow, February 18.